We decided to pull out early from Cookeville, TN, and head into Pigeon Forge, TN, area since the Cookeville area was not oh so exciting. After doing a little more research we realized that the Escapees Raccoon Valley Park we had reserved was not going to work out because of its drive time from there to anything we wanted to see. We bit the bullet and booked a site at the KOA Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg and that was our best decision on this leg. This KOA is centrally located to everything and had a great WiFi connection for Jason’s work connectivity.
Changing locations on the fly like this can generate some headaches. We had coordinated for a package to be delivered to general delivery at Heiskell, TN, for Jason from work. As well as we had ordered some items on Amazon black friday specials to be delivered to Heiskell but UPS would not deliver it to general delivery. It was the best choice to change locations because had we stayed up North of Knoxville we would not have seen nearly anything that we were able to do from the KOA as a home base. Barb fortunately had a good day on Monday for a drive up the hour up and hour back from Heiskell, TN, to pick up the general delivery package and we both “enjoyed” the outings to the UPS Customer service center (twice) to get the Amazon package. The KOA here does accept packages, so we did queue up some Amazon items we had been waiting on for delivery to the office here.
Since we changed travel this time to Saturday morning, it gave us an additional daytime opportunity to visit the Smoky Mountain National Park that we would not have otherwise had available. We knew we wanted to visit one of the highest points called Clingmans Dome, sitting at 6,643 feet and sits on the Tennessee / North Carolina border in the park before it closed for the winter on December 1. We had a very beautiful and clear day for the visit into the park, fortunately we did this right away because our stay later in the week was very dreary. There were many cliffs alongside the well paved mountain roads that Barb did not appreciate, but Penge the Pink Penguin sure did enjoy the views at each of the parking points we pulled out to enjoy the view from.
Gatlinburg observed the one year anniversary of the 2016 wildfires while we were here. You can still see empty foundations and shells of hotel resorts on the hillside. Many homes were indeed destroyed outside the village, and the Dolly Parton foundation provided $10,000 per family to those in the county to help recover. Now a year later the village is very much NOT destroyed and is alive! Lots of niche little shops and plenty to do in this area. The local news keeps talking about how bad the tourism numbers are and how many businesses are going out of business now. Spread the word, this area is a great place to visit! The fires only destroyed a small portion of this vast area of wilderness.
On Sunday we made our way down to the little village of Gatlinburg to ride the aerial tram up to Ober Gatlinburg. Barb has an immense fear of heights (or more accurately splatting on the ground from a height) so Jason sneaked in a visit to Ober Gatlinburg on her so there was no fretting. The plan was to visit in the evening later in the week, but again since we were ahead of schedule we did this on amazingly beautiful Sunday afternoon. Not only did Jason get Barb into the aerial tram that holds 120 people, but also onto the ski chairlift to go to the top of Mt. Harrison several thousand more feet dangling over the mountain with only a metal bar to hold us in! After Barb let go of her firm grip and relaxed a bit the view was amazing! It was a bit chilly but there was hot chocolate up there for sale and a live mountain music band.
Sevier County is the childhood home of Dolly Parton and this area is about her and the Dollywood Theme Park in Pigeon Forge. We visited the park during the evenings because they are celebrating the Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival from now until it closes in early January for winter. Over 4 million Christmas lights decorate the park and there are many theaters to enjoy the Christmas message. We particular enjoyed the Smoky Mountain String Band’s performance of an Appalachian Christmas. There are also roller coasters and other rides here, but we just enjoyed the theaters (and funnels cakes, yes two) that were offered. During the week the park doesn’t open until 2PM this time of the year and there was a two day pass available which makes it much easier to get all of the sights in over the two nights. Each night ended with a cold showing of the Parade of Many Colors. The park may not be of Disney quality, but it is for sure something to check out when you are in the area.
Well we both have colds now, maybe it was sitting waiting for that parade that did us in this week. Jason missed his first day of work while trying to be comfortable in the RV. Barb too was fighting the sniffles and fortunately was down for the count on the rainy Thursday.
|Nights Stayed||7: November 25 - December 2, 2017
28: November 4 - December 1, 2018
|Parking Site||KOA Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg
2017 in site 27. (There is a happy squirrel that loves to torment Wheezy)
2018 in site 114. (Same squirrel a year later tormenting Wheezy?)
|Restaurants||2017: The funnel cakes and the Cinnamon Bread at Dollywood are to die for!
2017: Big Daddy's Pizza in Pigeon Forge, TN
2018: Funnel cakes were changed and we did not have one and the Cinnamon Bread wasn't that great either this year.
2018: Wood Fired Grill Buffet, pretty decent setup and it was open on Thanksgiving day.
Everyone says to go to the Old Mill restaurant, we did not try it.
|Attractions||2017: Smoky Mountain National Park including Clingman Dome Tower and numerous hiking trails, water falls, etc.
2017 & 2018: Dollywood Theme Park
2017: Ober Gatlinburg and the Gatlinburg village shopping
2018: Hatfield's and McCoy's Feud Dinner show - Never again!
2018: Smoky Mountain Opry - Yes again!
|Remember for Next Time||2017 & 2018: Krispy Kremes are not so good here, very bad hygiene practices were observed while we tried to eat here. We tossed out the remainder of the half dozen donuts because of their quality.
2018: Dollywood Theme Park: open in the evenings, but when it gets cold they close a lot of the attractions or scale back the hours. Of course they don't reduce the cost for the day even though there is less to see and do. We contemplated a season pass but are glad we did not. The first year was more fun and special, the second year was just repeating things we had saw before. ** Be sure to check the schedule of events, the night we went the theater and group we really wanted to see what not performing. Plus since they are outdoor they likely would have been canceled for the night anyway.
|Mail Service||KOA accepts packages from USPS and UPS for guests. 2018: We had a problem with the USPS service here though, they marked a package as delivered and it was not. Amazon refunded the money very quickly.|
|AT&T Coverage||4G LTE Good|
|Verizon Coverage||4G LTE Good|
|WiFi Coverage||2017: Park WiFi works well during the workweek.
2018: WiFi was not useful at the site at all, especially when the hoards of people were in the park before Thanksgiving.
|Anytime Fitness||2017: 15 minutes to the Northwest, really busy at 5AM, cardio equipment is really tired (as in old and worn, not because it is 5AM!)
2018: The equipment was even older and the shower facility was never clean. The entire facility is in need of a sprucing up.